As workplaces around the world start to reopen, one of the biggest concerns is how to reduce the need for touch on shared services.
Think about it – from fingerprint scanners at the time & attendance kiosks to shared telephone systems in the lobby, from watercoolers to vending machines, from doorknobs to conferencing hardware, most of a typical office’s infrastructure relies on the human touch.
This multiplies your risk levels during a pandemic.
A smarter alternative that several companies and technology vendors are exploring right now is touchless interfaces.
In a touchless technology environment, we try to replace traditional hardware with non-touch controls like gesture, voice, and facial recognition. To cut down dependence on share devices, it might encourage BYOD. There’s a great deal of automation and cross-platform integration so that tasks are performed with little to no physical touch.
The implications of this in a COVID-19 world are immense. A survey found that 87% of shoppers would rather visit stores with touchless self-checkout options. They want items to be automatically scanned and billed without requiring a touchscreen or physical buttons. The same things apply to workplaces as well. Employees should be able to take the lift, register attendance, make calls, schedule conferences, and essentially use any shared space/resource without risking contamination.
The need for touchless technology has given rise to a rapidly growing market, expected to reach $15.3 billion by 2025. The touchless sensing market is now valued at $6.8 billion only, but growing at a healthy CAGR of 17.4%.
The first is probably a basic peddle kit that turns any device from being hand-controlled to foot-controlled. You could have peddle-enabled water coolers, sanitizer dispensers, door openers, and so on. Ebac – one of UK’s largest eater cooler manufacturers – has announced a foot peddle kit to be retrofitted to the company’s best-selling models.
The next touchless technology type uses the one BYOD interface we all have at hand – the smartphone. Just like mobile payments are transforming retail, eliminating the need for plastic that exchanges hands, mobile platforms could be used to enter passwords, register attendance, configure conferencing systems, and much more. A company called Chekin is bringing mobile registration to the hospitality industry.
Interestingly, hospitality is an important area for touchless innovation, helping to restore business as unusual as soon as possible. Technology services provider, Enseo recently registered 10+ new patents, including touchless technology and remote control.
We are also witnessing the rise of a new breed of start-ups dedicated to touchless technology. Consider, for example, AnyVision, which picked up $43 million in funding to work on touchless biometric access control and facial recognition to create safer workplaces.
Europe-based AIRxTOUCH also deserves mention for its full suite of touchless solutions in collaboration with UC hardware giants like Samsung. The company’s patented technology can detect the user’s finger 14 cm. before it can touch a surface! Technologies like these could revolutionise how we communicate with our physical surroundings, answering employee anxiety as offices reopen, and we normalise operations.